It has been an eventful initiation to politics for Bollywood singer Babul Supriyo, the cheering crowds giving him confidence of victory and a police case filed against him by his rivals leaving him aghast.
Supriyo, 44, fighting on a BJP ticket in Asansol, is in a triangular fight with veteran CPM leader Bansagopal Chowdhury and the Trinamool Congress’s Dola Sen.
He begins his day with a news update from secretary and district party leaders, then sets off at 9 am on a modified Tata Ace decked up with flowers. As crowds greet him, he greets them with “Kaho na pyaar hai”.
“I have heard that you have to go to people’s houses asking for votes. Here, wherever I go, people are already on the streets,” he says. At Bhabani village, a group of people approaches him with a lotus in hand. Supriyo steps out and sits down with the leader of the group. “Scarcity of potable water is top of the priority list,” he says, as he takes down names and phone numbers who have complaints.
He calls this side of his welcome to politics “overwhelming”.
About the other side, he says, “Atrocious, shameful, often baffling”. The case against him, filed by a Trinamool Congress leader, of relates to possession of a firearm. “I always felt Mamataji liked my singing. She had had several interactions with me, requesting me to sing specific songs in a function for Mohun Bagan Club,” he says, citing his closeness to Satabdi Roy, Tapas Pal, Bratya Basu, Madan Mitra and Derek O’Brien, “a good friend for 18 or 19 years”.
The Raniganj circle inspector lodged the case on April 16 following a complaint by Trinamool block president Senapati Mondal. On April 22, Supriyo surrendered before a local court and got bail for 14 days. Supriyo, who claims he has faced violent attacks too, says these allegations have made him more determined than ever. Since entering politics, he has changed his WhatsApp status message from “One life, one chance….jump” to “On the other side of fear lies freedom.”
“I won’t run away. I want to win this seat for (Narendra) Modiji and myself,” Supriyo says.
Modi’s rally in Asansol Sunday was in Supriyo’s support.
In a constituency that has a mixed population of Muslims, migrant labourers from Dhanbad and Jharkhand districts and SC/ST communities, the BJP candidate stresses he will promise no separate policies for the Muslims, who form 20 per cent of the 14.57 lakh-strong electorate. “Why should they be any different? We will look for a holistic development unlike our Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who is indulging in the policy of appeasement of Muslims in the name of secularism. She is paying a honorarium to Muslim clerics, hoping that all the members of the community would vote for her. It is communal divisiveness,” he says.
He feels his fight is more with the Trinamool than with the CPM. “I have not faced any challenge from the CPM yet. The threat is purely from the Trinamool and I reiterate they are spreading violence. Those who are working for the BJP are being beaten up and false cases are being filed against them,” he says.
In 2009, Bansagopal had defeated Trinamool candidate Malay Ghatak by 72,956 votes. Asansol is known as his stronghold.
Trinamool candidate Sen is a former Naxalite who joined Mamata during her Singur agitation and now looks after the party’s trade union. She too is confident. “People here have seen the development work of Mamata Banerjee and I am sure they will vote for the Trinamool,” she says.